Science on Screen Season, Barbican Cinema at the Barbican Centre, London

The rich relationship between science and the cinema takes centre stage in the Barbican’s ongoing series presented in partnership with the London Mathematical Laboratory.

It is a programme which aims to dispel the idea of a profound division between science and other aspects of culture, illustrating both the vital role of creativity and imagination in scientific practice and how scientific perspectives can shed light on artistic cultural and social questions. Figures actively involved the worlds of science and medicine will introduce favourite films and reveal unexpected connections between the art of the filmmaker and the excitement of scientific discovery.

The series opened with Andrei Tarkovsky’s mind-bending, cryptic and allegorical Stalker. Set in a mysterious place known as the Zone, the site of an undetermined catastrophe, where nothing is what it seems and the landscapes shift and disorientate, two men, the Writer and the Scientist, are taken on an illicit tour through the dreamlike environment by the Stalker. As they travel deeper into the Zone, each character seeks and sees something different.

Ridley Scott’s 1982 dystopian sci-fi classic Blade Runner may seem to need little introduction. However, vast developments have taken place in the real-life field of neuroscience since this story of artificially intelligent “replicants” first captivated audiences. On 8 December, Tipu Aziz, a specialist in deep brain stimulation, will draw parallels between our current understanding of consciousness and the questions posed by the film, in which bounty hunter Deckard (Harrison Ford) pursues four replicants and the line between human and machine begins to blur. Scott’s neo-noir vision of the future and Vangelis’s dream-like score remain as mesmerising and thought-provoking as ever.

The ways in which technology has transformed social interaction will be the focus of network specialist Michelle Girvan’s introduction to David Fincher’s The Social Network on 9 February. While the film tells the personal stories behind the rise of Facebook and of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, Girvan will discuss how social networks generate massive amounts of data which are not only of use for commercial ends but for scientific ones, offering the prospect of unprecedented insights into human behaviour.

Science On Screen; Barbican Cinema, until February 2016, Barbican Centre, London; www.barbican.org.uk/film.

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Credits
1. Still from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).